Published in: Nepalnews.com
As a young boy, I grew up amidst traditional Hindu rituals that permeated most aspects of our lives. Year-long mourning of a deceased parent, 13 days mourning of close relatives, homage to ancestors, warding off of scabies or ghosts, periodic fasting, worshiping of deities, daily prayers, harvest ceremonies, greetings, and cleansing of the body are some examples of those rituals. Rituals defined our loyalty, respect, and interrelationships with gods, ancestors and everything that existed around us. Rituals came with magical qualities of communion, self-awareness, awe, solace, and intrigue. They often espoused happy memories in our psyche. On the downside, rituals were also like pests. They carried the burden of orthodoxy, competition of show-off, exposition of social hierarchies, financial burden, fear of ridicule in not-following or improperly-following them, and threat to scholarly freedoms.
I remember a time when my neighbours caught me not wearing my prescribed “sacred thread”. To them it was solid proof of my deviation from my sanctioned duties. This became a matter of big ridicule and laughter in the village. I was relieved for the fact that my parents did not have to face this for they had already passed away. A student of engineering, dissatisfied by the lack of pursuit of science, technology and research in Nepal when some other countries were in the age of space exploration, I was appalled by the shroud of religion worn by the oppressive rulers of Nepal at the time. To me, our rituals looked so outdated, draconian, and superstitious. They did not make sense to me, albeit they did to my villagers for whom they were like fundamental basis of existence. Therefore, contradictions existed between the young and the old, learning and the all-knowing, aspiring and the habituated, and proof and the belief. And I belonged to the rebelling camp that sought justification and proof as the basis of accepting anything and everything. Continue reading